I’d like to take a few minutes for an update on the SR-710 North Study, Metro’s effort to improve transportation in the area around the 710 freeway in the San Gabriel Valley. The video above is new from the project team and describes the project.
Original state plans called for completing the 710 from Long Beach to Pasadena. That never happened. As a result, the 710 runs between Long Beach and Alhambra and there’s a very short segment of what was intended to the 710 that extends south of the 210 freeway in Pasadena.
As I’m very sure you’re aware, this is a very contentious issue . While I completely understand and appreciate there are a variety of opinions on what, if anything, needs to be done to improve traffic in the western San Gabriel Valley and beyond, I also believe and hope there are certain facts about Metro’s ongoing study that can be agreed upon:
•A project alternative to widen Avenue 64 was dropped from the study last August, largely because it wouldn’t have improved traffic much according to Metro’s analysis and because of the environmental impacts it would cause to surrounding communities. Reinstating it to the ongoing study would be legally difficult at this stage and, besides, I’m unaware of anyone on Planet Earth who wants it reinstated.
Why was it studied in the first place? Because Metro wanted to review every possible option in order to determine the very best ones for further study. Let’s be honest here. On the one hand, studying a wide spectrum of alternatives gives credibility to Metro’s studies — it’s a way of ensuring the best alternatives are truly the best. On the other hand, it’s also fair to say that Metro’s credibility among some community members took a hit for proposing an alternative that was so unpopular.
•Despite what some people may be saying, Metro has no current plans to take homes, nor does the agency know the precise location of facilities that would go along with some of the alternatives. I can’t emphasize this point enough: Metro is studying a potential project. No decision has yet been made to build anything and nothing has yet been designed.
•There are only five alternatives that will continue to be studied as part of the legally-required Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (DEIR/DEIS) for the project: a no-build option, an alternative to improve traffic signals and intersections in the study area, bus rapid transit between East Los Angeles and Pasadena, two light rail routes between East L.A. and Pasadena (the routes are similar) and a freeway tunnel that would directly link the 710 between where it currently ends at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and between the stub of the 710 that ends between Del Mar and California Boulevards in Pasadena.
Metro recently released an Alternatives Analysis (pdf) that explains why those five alternatives were chosen over the dozens of other options studied. Here’s an earlier post on The Source that includes maps of the project alternatives and here’s the Alternative Analysis’ Executive Summary (pdf).
•Metro staff will be briefing the Metro Board of Directors — the ultimate decision-makers at Metro — on the project’s Alternatives Analysis at the Board’s February meeting. No votes are required by the Board to move the project to its DEIS/R phase.
•The DEIR/DEIS will be followed by a Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement. The entire process is expected to take at least two years. Metro staff will likely make a recommendation on which alternative to build as part of these reports.
•The final decision on what, if anything, gets built will be made by the Metro Board. The Board could choose to build nothing, could choose to build a single alternative or could choose to build a combination of the alternatives.
•Appendix X of the Alternatives Analysis (pdf) has the current cost estimates for the alternatives still under study — keep in mind these will be refined as each alternative is better defined. The estimates: traffic system management improvements ($120 million), bus rapid transit alternative 6 ($50 million), light rail alternatives 4a and 4b ($2.425 billion and $2.6 billion) and freeway tunnel alternative 7 ($5.425 billion).
The Measure R sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 allocates $780 million for the SR-710 project. Funding would need to be secured for any costs above that amount.
•Finally, I’ve spoken several times about the project recently with Frank Quon, Executive Officer for Highway Programs at Metro. A phrase he frequently used was “state of the art” — i.e., if Metro builds anything, the agency will build a project that actually improves transportation in the region — and does so using the latest, safest technology designed to minimize any impacts on the community. As he said, it’s not in anyone’s best interest to do anything but the best possible work.